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Career Services Director Q&A: Julia Min Hwang of the Berkeley-Haas MBA Career Management Group

Julia Min Hwang

CA: How does your team counsel students regarding the interview? Is there a formal mock interview process? How are interview schedules administered? Is there an established policy regarding how closed and open interviews should be conducted? What facilities are available for interviews?

JMH:  We really want our students to zero in on the kinds of questions they need to be asking at the interview.

To do this, they need to determine how they fit within an industry, a firm, a culture, or within a role at a company. To this end, we encourage our students to try to understand what kind of environment they thrive in. Maybe you know you really work best in a collaborative, cooperative environment and those are things that are “triggers” for you.

It’s important for students to understand what their triggers are, understand their values, passions and true calling. This is why values-based coaching has become very important to us.

Our full-time students start right away thinking about their values and where they want to go. We call it peeling the onion, getting to the core. Some students might even be peeling two onions, exploring two industries.

Fortunately, for students who are questioning what industry they might want to go into, we have the industry experts here for them to talk to. They can also connect with alumni on our Career Connect platform, work with clubs via networking events, go on any number of treks, attend speaker series.

CA: What kind of role do alumni play in Haas’s recruiting process? How integral are they to your office’s success? Is alumni participation a major part of your placement platform?

JMH: Alumni are our champions, our advocates and our wonderful industry experts. Many of our alums serve as recruiting captains for their companies, helping the firms understand how to reach out to students.

These recruiting captains, usually two or three years out, build a team of alums and non-alums who might be available for informational interviews.

We also have Career Connect, which is more for our alumni who might not have time to come on campus. Alumni volunteer through Career Connect in different domestic and international cities to speak to students. Then, of course, we have alumni who are coming to classes to teach industry-specific courses.

We also want our students to look at the wider UC Berkeley database, which is huge. There are so many folks willing to take their call. The rating for our alumni network at the end of the year is off the charts in terms of students’ satisfaction.

CA: Do you have any advice for prospective applicants in terms of what they might do in advance of the MBA program to be better prepared for the job search process? In your experience, do you find that students who have done x, y or z before arriving on campus have a more successful experience with career services and the job search as a whole?

JMH:  Students need to come in understanding that they need to be laser-focused. In some industries you don’t have the luxury of taking a two-year break for an MBA. So you need to carry the job search process forward at the start of school and continue to follow through.

I advise students to tap their undergrad database and LinkedIn to find people to talk to about some of the career transitions they are considering. Just reach out and say you want to hear their story. Even strangers are so honored to be asked that.

So reach out, and reach out often. Think about it in terms of making an investment in your future. The job search is a very active process, and the only way you can direct it is if you know what you want.

CA: There’s been a huge shift toward greater hiring by tech firms in recent years. How has this impacted your overall career services offerings? Are there specific programs, interview prep, etc. for students targeting tech jobs?

JMH: Tech hiring is not new at Haas. We’ve had applicants to our part-time and executive MBA programs who were among the first 50 employees at firms like Google, Yahoo.

Alumni have played a key part in how we have been able to gain such huge traction among our students landing these wonderful positions.

Each year we do a business development survey. We ask our students: “What companies that we are not already associated with would you like to see us have a relationship with?”

I will tell you, that list is a mile long, with many companies mentioned only once. But it does give us a really good idea of what’s hot out there and what students are seeking.

There are also two student clubs—the Haas Tech Club (HTC) and the Haas Digital, Media and Entertainment Club (DMEC). These clubs put on an annual conference and a whole expo that draws really interesting companies.

CA: Same question with regard to students who are interested in social impact careers? Is this growing? How are you responding from a career services perspective?

JMH: There’s a lot of interest and a lot of buzz around social impact careers.

The challenge is in clearly defining social impact. Lots of students come in thinking they want to work for a mission-driven company, but they don’t quite know what that is. I have been working with Laura Tyson, who heads the Institute for Business and Social Impact (IBSI), to define what social impact really is. It’s not an industry, and it’s not a function.

Social impact is so broad, in fact, that we believe students need a curriculum to help them through it. How does one even define social impact, and within that, where do MBA talents and skillsets fit in?

We’ve just started, and we’ve brought in someone to work with us part-time over the last couple of months to think about how we can amass a wealth of knowledge to inform students, but also help them go through the process of defining mission-driven work. They also have to work with our coaches to define which mission resonates with them.

I love the challenge of it. It’s a new outlook in the job market—being able to make change and truly have an impact through business.

CA: What do you lose sleep over with regard to the Haas Career Management Group and what it offers?

I’d rather tell you what gets me up feeling enthusiastic every morning. But if I had to point to something that might make me lose sleep, it could be thinking about how to sustain the pace we need to keep as an office while also making sure my staff isn’t burning out. That keeps me up for sure.

But what I am enthusiastic about is that we are helping our students to frame themselves to make big changes. I also think we are doing something really interesting and valuable with our values-based coaching. And finally, I’m just always curious—even after 10 years of working with students.

Posted in: Admissions Director Q&A, Career Services Director Q&A, Careers, MBA News, News, School Q&A

Schools: Berkeley / Haas

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